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Sensitivity of extreme precipitation to temperature: the variability of scaling factors from a regional to local perspective

Schroeer, K., Kirchengast, G.
Climate dynamics 2018 v.50 no.11-12 pp. 3981-3994
climate, latitude, lowlands, mountains, rain, risk, seasonal variation, temperature, Austria
Potential increases in extreme rainfall induced hazards in a warming climate have motivated studies to link precipitation intensities to temperature. Increases exceeding the Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) rate of 6–7%/°C–¹ are seen in short-duration, convective, high-percentile rainfall at mid latitudes, but the rates of change cease or revert at regionally variable threshold temperatures due to moisture limitations. It is unclear, however, what these findings mean in term of the actual risk of extreme precipitation on a regional to local scale. When conditioning precipitation intensities on local temperatures, key influences on the scaling relationship such as from the annual cycle and regional weather patterns need better understanding. Here we analyze these influences, using sub-hourly to daily precipitation data from a dense network of 189 stations in south-eastern Austria. We find that the temperature sensitivities in the mountainous western region are lower than in the eastern lowlands. This is due to the different weather patterns that cause extreme precipitation in these regions. Sub-hourly and hourly intensities intensify at super-CC and CC-rates, respectively, up to temperatures of about 17 °C. However, we also find that, because of the regional and seasonal variability of the precipitation intensities, a smaller scaling factor can imply a larger absolute change in intensity. Our insights underline that temperature precipitation scaling requires careful interpretation of the intent and setting of the study. When this is considered, conditional scaling factors can help to better understand which influences control the intensification of rainfall with temperature on a regional scale.